Vibes & Leaks

Written by Jara Rocha, Kym Ward & Xavier Gorgol

Vibes & Leaks began as a workshop at erg in 2017 with Xavier Gorgol, Jara Rocha2 & Kym Ward3, looking at the various ways that tongues and gender are wrapped round each other. Asking questions about the erasure of articulation within pedagogical situations, we focused on questions such as:

We look at vibrations and leakages (of tone, of saliva, of embodied memories, of untold secrets) which connect, confirm or problematize speech acts, and see activity in organs & muscles that have previously been described in passive terms (the ear, the throat), in order to give us hints towards what an affirmative, reorganised pedagogy might look like. We want a pedagogy based on agential somatopolitics, meaning that every bodypart involved in the making of the world has a stake in the learning situation itself; the fingers, the nervous system, the eyelids, the nose, the anus. Our proposals are discursive, but also very much body-based, privileging bodily knowledge and trying it alongside concepts. Vibes & Leaks tries for a fluid movement between research questions:

Specific topics (geopolitics, age, ability, gender), and exercises (mapping, unnaming, diagramming, recording, mutually dictating) are touched on and are always open to movements and interventions.

The TTTT edition of Vibes & Leaks proposed to look at transmissions between bodies which connect, confirm or problematize speech acts.

Over the TTTToolbox period of work from 2020–2021, we separated out our research areas, bringing different material at each meeting. There were many collaborators and colluders who worked at proximities with us on this. Initial TTTT meetings focused on “Geopolitical Voices” (see below for links/more info); the following working group emphasized “Sexed & Gendered Voices”; in June 2020 we focused on “Aged Voices and Voices Without Words”. And through these meetings, through ongoing and situated research practice, “Embodied Voice” became transversally featured across many sessions.

In each of the areas, we invited people to participate to the research and built a practice based on formulating questions. The formulation of problematics in question-like sentences made it easier to integrate emergent situated knowledge throughout the meetings.

In addition, during the meetings certain exercises or protocols were proposed — in person or at an intermediate distance — to invite the participants' bodies to take part in the exchanges as contributors.

We collected some of the most successful exercises and clusters of study and depieced them in a sort of study threads for pedagogical remix, so that anyone can apply them in a situated manner on other contexts. After that, we offer a number of inflections as a kind of final debrief.

Threads of study

There are multiple different resources and implementations created and collected, in the process of Vibes & Leaks — TTTT edition. Please find a collection of action-research threads assembled as part of an ongoing practice hereby:

Geopolitical voices

Here is a collective analysis on how the spatial situatedness (location) of voice operates in a given social situation. Please find some questions and an exercise to apply on the classroom, below the general description, explicitly designed with pedagogic remix aims.

With “Geopolitical Voice”, we conversely attend at how the located-ness of voice operates in social situations, but also how historically continued dis-location of people affects voice in the present. Attention is set collectively along specific case studies brought by participants (asked about their understanding of crossings between space and voice, diverse issues emerge: accents, traditional tales, learned expressions, erased pronunciations due to migration, etc). The material moves from an artwork about a family who do not speak-alike and take elocution lessons in order to merge accents, in Nina Katchadourian's “Accent Elimination” (2005); to the collective listening of M. Nourborse Phillip's poem (1988) “Discourse on the Logic of Language”, in which she stacks the learning child's phonetic repetition against the descriptions from the history of neuroscience, and legal edicts on holding slaves against the rhythms of dub chants. What is geo-political in voice is not solely focused on accents and dialects, but understands voice as relational, spatialized phenomena.

From the differenciation of class accents depending on districts or neighbourhoods (e.g.: Constant's projects Parlez-vous St. Gillois? and La langue Schaerbeekoise to the migrating voices that carry accents or the creole amalgams of languaging in colonized areas; also, Globish as the müesli tongue: taking the name of the same kind of breakfast that is served in every hotel around the globe, the Euraca Seminar of poetry and language studies in Madrid uses this expression to speak about the fact that language is subjected to forces of universalization and hence of flattening What happens then to the flattened but resistant subjectivities that mundanely and locally try to use their voices to say things and be-with-them-in-the-world-together? That's the open-ended question that participants are left with, to keep bringing case studies to confront it and to keep attending to their own voice as a spatialized phenomenon.

Some questions on geopolitical voice

Exercise of geopolitical voice

The practice of the Human microphone (an oral transmission tactic) during Occupy Wall Street in early 2010 was an inspiration for this exercise.

We deconstructed this practice which consists on the one hand of separating speech, in a quasi-telegraphic form, to make it spread over a larger surface, a larger crowd, like for example a concentration on a protesting square. On the other hand, repeating the words or sounds that another person makes (for example, repeat after she says: I am Judith Butler — then start this video.)

Pick a text that is significant to the collective research or the learning situation.
One person volunteers for reading it aloud.
The rest of the group distributes around the room at different distances from the reading person.
Everyone checks around and sees where they are located in relation to all the other persons in the room, so they get an idea of who they are receiving from, and who they are emitting towards.
The reading person says a sentence.
The closest persons to the reading person, repeat that sentence.
When they hear the sentence closer to them, the persons in row 2 repeat the sentence. This happens in every row, one at a time, with as many repetitions of the sentence as rows on the room.
Once the "echo" effect is silenced, the reading person reads next sentence and the echo effect happens again.
Continue the dynamic until the end of the chosen text.

For this exercise of the Human Mic we suggest reading

She Unnames Them, by Ursula K. Le Guin, The New Yorker, 21 January 1985.

The individual reading practice is followed by the movement of the body in the work space, deepening the reading of the text.

The body, its impressions, its emotions in the reading processes, to connect the felt and the reasoning is one of the preoccupations of the Vibes & Leaks proposal. The fact of moving also allows us to become aware of what works and what doesn't work in this relationship between practice and theory.

The bodily displacement, from the work table, is queering the relationship to reading and the exchange of knowledge between text and reader. Whether the reading is done in movement or by stopping at certain places in the room, this practice increases the attention given to the body in space and to the words and sounds uttered from one person to another, bouncing off this or that wall or window — echoing this or that sentence or word uttered later, etc. The materiality of reading also becomes the vessel for the exchange of knowledge.

Aged voice & voice without words

Affects and time pass engage behaviours in the listening and emitting ends that are provoked by rigid categories of social value attached to age. Also, generations operate sometimes as knowledge transmitters but also as linguistic niches. This study thread pays attention to the crossings between age and voice in as many scales as possible (from the ancestral traditions to the infancy social resurfacing).

The material for “Aged Voice” is grouped together with “The voice without words” because it connects different circumstances of speech: from the pathologized condition of memoryless of dementia to the speechless stage of babies and toddlers. Here, we attend critically at ageism and ableism, as well as at how definitions of stages of life have a bearing on labour relation, and create understandings of age brackets, such as “childhood“ or “the elderly”. We pay attention at splitting life into age brackets which are labour-related, and the creation of cultural age slots as childhood, elderly or youth. Affect relation in new borns, and communication when some cognitive capacity lessens in old age, are important example of the problematic at stake. Fed into this are questions of the perceived usefulness of a person at each stage, and how voice modulates to use-value. We collectively discussed about affect relations in new borns, to help us reflect on classroom dynamics, and at modes of non-verbal communication in older ages, to privilege other modes of communication in people with different cognitive capacities. In relation to age, we also studied the generational differences and memory disruption, and we jumped timescales, attending to remembered and forgotten articulations. Without specific conclusions, the richness of this segment of the collective praxis of in-the-classroom pedagogic research lays in the highlighting of the crossing between age and ability as potential externalities to smooth voicing and hyperproductive speech acts, to attune the classroom towards a potential dismantling of those rigidifying validation mechanisms.

Some questions


Breathing exercise to connect to ancestral voicing and the worldlings that came along that attunement to a different timescale by the passing of air through the same cavities that before or after emit voice. The Tao, ancient Chinese wisdom, which means way, path, evokes three breaths that make up the universe, the trouble of the earth, the light in the heavens and in the middle the harmony.The triple heater, which is located between the chest and the lower abdomen, is the device in the body that allows these three breaths to be mixed.

Continue this practice for at least 5 minutes.

Sexed and gendered voices

Where do gendered words sit in the body?

One of the research questions in the grouping 'Sexed & Gendered Voice' is: Where does gender sit in the body more than in the words that impact and depart from its very flesh? We focus on phonation, and the mechanisms of articulation – energy, air and vibration; testing out how words originate in the body and activate different parts of the respiratory and laryngeal systems.

The materials on the hotglue page prepared for this study thread aim to disrupt the binary of the passive listener/active speaker, by affirming the states of high activity in supposedly passive activities. We focus on how passive and active gendered terminology functions to reaffirm implicit bias, or objectify the voice itself. We also look at the patriarchal-colonial history of “naming” the body (its organs, its behaviors, its typologies, its pathologies) and the complicated history of how the early white women's movement helped to further structural oppression. By means of cultural case studies (filmic archives, literature, medical evidences, philosophy fragments), we study passive and active terminology which is gendered (guess which way round!). This works in the way of bringing into consciousness what had no antithesis. Speaking about gender has traditionally involved intensive naming as a form of ownership, and explicit unnaming (the situation in which a trans* person is called by their given name, not their chosen one) as a form of erasure. We then try to move away from binary logics and multiply meanings. We attend as well at the colonial archives to find cases of naming female genital physiology (e.g. Skene's gland, named after the man who “discovered” it).

Some questions

Exercise: Gender affecting body through voices

The pronunciation of words has an effect on the body itself. As Marie-Louise Aucher defines psychophony, it is “a self-experimental process of physical and psychic harmony that uses the spoken and sung voice to explore the correspondences between humans, sounds, rhythms and the verb.”

In the wake of this practice, the exercise proposes to detect what the words do to the body that pronounces them, at first. In a second stage, it would be a question of observing what gendered words and sexualizing expressions do to the bodies that surround the voice that enunciates them. Not as a conclusive praxis but rather as open-ended attunement, this exercise orients the whole group towards and inventive vocalization mode, and the non-binary potential enunciations to come.

Exercise: gendered pronouns in different languages 1

Him, composed of the vowel that allows the sound to rise, a sound that attracts attention, the body stands up. The expulsion of the sound is done on a tonic body.

Her, composed of a descending speech affects the body in a movement that fades away, disappears. The locution "er" in English opens the mouth and demands the expiration of a larger amount of breath. The air emitted dissipates as quickly as the sound is lost in the surrounding sounds.

We did not have the opportunity to continue the exercise to observe the effect of the pronunciation of non-binary words, pronouns or expressions on the other bodies. This could be done initially on a group of people who work together and then in public spaces ready to host this kind of experimentation.

Embodied voice

How to move away from text into discussion and down to the body to re-textualize it all again This session convokes a conversation and the possibility to mumble ideas together and foresee a possible structure for the groupal work. One of the goals of this work is to —through the method, archiving, researches— arrive to the setting up of the pedagogical situation into the creation of a pedagogical tool based on how voicing matters.

In “Embodied Voice”, the materials centre on the crossover between feminisms and biology. We ask questions about how having curiosity for the way in which the body vocalises, might not necessarily fall back on essential characteristics generally assigned to bodies in scientific disciplines such as genetics or neurology. We follow the work of authors such as Elisabeth A. Wilson and Evelyn Fox Keller, who trace other paths between the materiality of the body, and inquisitiveness in biology — entering into disciplines such as neurobiology, molecular biology and psychology. In doing so, they try to move on from second wave feminism's rejection of biological reductivism (summarized in the affirmation “one is not born a woman, but becomes one” by Simone de Beauvoir), to reconnect with the very concrete aspects of difference without falling back on essentialism but rather on a new way towards the semiotic-material complexity of every human (relational) existence. As with the other vectors, we move from texts to discussion to body-based exercises and back again. Here, texts about the gendered affectual relation of laughter are grouped with discussion about the neuro-chemistry of laughter, and with a group exercise, locating tonalities of laugher in the body.

Some questions

Exercise : Laughter

With laughter, we experience an activity of the mind that is directly reflected in the body. There is a saying that a happy heart is a good doctor: laughter is an affect that connects emotions that move the diaphragm and the gut. Through these connections laughter is a psychosomatic factor in healing, states of consciousness, thoughts and all the mechanisms that run through the body : humor purges the blood, is making the body lively and fit for any manner of employment. Laughter focuses the attention of the laugher, nothing is possible but laughing. a tip: laugh for at least 10 minutes.

Make a circle with everyone in the room, holding hands.
Gradually move away, trying to keep the connection as long as possible.
Start with a breathing exercise to warm up the abdomen: alternate between rushing exhalations and long exhalations.
You can gently start to introduce laughter.
The progression of the laughter should be supported by a mediator.
someone will increase the sound level and intensity of the laughter.
The exercise is successful when participants move from controlled laughter to heartfelt laughter.

Care note

Full on laughter over a long period of time requires sustained breath work; people who are sensitive to breath practices or who feel dizzy can change their breathing, sit or massage the pressure point three fingers below the wrist strongly until the feeling of spinning goes away.


References to be explored, used

Geo-Political Voice

Sexed & Gendered Voice

Embodied Voice

Aged Voice & voice without words

  1. here in English, but certainly transposable to other languages 

  2. Lives in Barcelona and works at the intersection between trans☆feminisms, critique of technology and (in)humanities. Is currently (2021-2022) a Fellow for Situated Practice in BAK (Utrecht), with a research organized around the notion of Digital Discomfort. Their work can be followed here 

  3. Works in the realm of art, arts organisation & teaching and in the charity sector where she runs workshops for people with dementia, using singing & speech & language therapy, and dance and physiotherapy. Kym is a member of Knowledge is a does, an intersectional feminist reading group began in 2015 while on a residency at the Jan Van Eyck academie in Maastricht. She is a co-founder of Bidston Observatory Artistic Research (BOARC) centre, Liverpool, UK.